Photo by Alex D'Addese

Graduating from Home: Sport Media Students and Ryerson University Athletics

By Vanessa Kezwer, 3rd year RTA: Sport Media

It has been the candy department for Ryerson University’s sports-loving students: a place stocked with a selection of sweet opportunities ranging from sports broadcasting, to marketing, and communications. For many students set to graduate in June as members of the inaugural class of the RTA Sport Media program, Ryerson University Athletics has been more than just a candy department – it’s been a classroom and a home.

“I think if I didn’t have Ryerson Athletics and all the opportunities, I wouldn’t be the broadcaster and young professional that I [am] leaving Ryerson now,” said graduating Sport Media student Stan Temming.

“I think it will kind of hit me once it’s September again and I won’t be doing it. It just became part of the routine, to be working for Athletics in one role or another and I’ll definitely miss it.”

Temming’s involvement with Athletics dates back to his first year at Ryerson in 2014 when he worked as a graphics operator for the Ryerson Rams Network, the school’s sports broadcasting initiative (now a joint venture between Ryerson Athletics and RTA known as Rams Live). In his second year, he transitioned to a role in front of the microphone, calling play-by-play for Ryerson’s women’s hockey and volleyball broadcasts, the latter of which he continued into his final two years. He also worked as an Athletics staff writer for two years and acted as the master of ceremonies at numerous Athletics events.

Temming (left) and RTA Sport Media student Tash Cyrille during a Rams Live women's volleyball broadcast in November, 2016.

Photo: Temming (left) and RTA Sport Media student Tash Cyrille during a Rams Live women's volleyball broadcast in November, 2016.

According to Temming, his tenure with Athletics proved invaluable in not only allowing him to taste-test various facets of the industry, but also to experiment with his work and make mistakes in a supportive environment.

“Just the opportunity and the openness from everyone in Athletics to let people come in and do what they can to contribute is incredible,” he said.

“[…] If [a new idea or approach] didn’t work, that was fine and we would adjust and do it better next time and if it did work, it would be fantastic. It just builds your skill set because it’s one thing to learn about things in the classroom, but if you get to apply them the very next day at work, it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

While crafting game previews, recaps, and features as a Rams writer, the Stratford, Ont. native was able to apply the concepts he learned in his Sports Writing and Sports Journalism lectures – classes wherein he completed similar assignments. He also sharpened his interviewing skills in this role, discovering the importance of asking thought-provoking questions to elicit non-clichéd responses and fostering trust with athletes and coaches.

In addition to composing articles, Temming’s responsibilities in his second year on the job expanded to include live tweeting games and cutting in-game video highlights. Though challenging, the demands of this position improved Temming’s ability to juggle several tasks simultaneously which ultimately prepared him for success while working for CBC last winter.

“I was lucky enough to work on the Olympics this time around, the PyeongChang Games, as a writer/researcher and the multi-tasking I did working for Athletics was utilized […] while in the control room [because] I was doing a million different things,” he said. “It wasn’t even that scary to be doing a bunch of different things because I was so used to having to do many things at once for Athletics.”

Temming (left) at CBC during the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Photo: Temming (left) at CBC during the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

Temming also had the opportunity to work for CBC during the 2016 Rio Olympics and for Canoe Kayak Canada last summer where he wore the many hats of content producer, commentator, and broadcast crew member throughout the National Championship. The 21-year-old’s experience with Athletics helped crack open these industry doors by bolstering his resume and supplying him with quality material to include in his portfolio.

“If you can do something you enjoy and make a little bit of money doing that and build your portfolio too, it’s just the ultimate win-win-win,” he said of working with Athletics.

Akin to Temming, graduating Sport Media classmate Jaime Hills leveraged her experience with Ryerson Athletics to land some exciting industry opportunities.

While in her second year as a member of the Rams women’s basketball team in 2016, Hills assumed the role of colour commentator for the men’s basketball Rams Live broadcasts. The challenges of managing playing and broadcasting – which included a 20-minute The Amazing Race-style post-game dash from the court, to the shower, to the commentator’s desk in time for tip-off of the proceeding men’s match – lead Hills to retire midway through the 2016-17 season to focus on her sport media career.

The move, which also saw her transition to calling the women’s games, paid dividends mere months later when Sportsnet hired her as the colour commentator for the U SPORTS Women’s Basketball Final 8 National Championship.

“By calling the games through Ryerson, I had an example of my work that I could send […] to people to show what I can do on-air rather than just saying this is something I’d like to do […],” said Hills.

“That lead to an opportunity to get to call Nationals last year and then that opportunity from last year lead to calling it again this year, so that was pretty cool to have had something I’ve done basically through school lead to a real career opportunity.”

As a result of learning how to establish a natural on-air rapport with her play-by-play partner through the experience she gained with Rams Live, Hills felt comfortable when asked to do the same at Nationals with prominent Sportsnet personality Arash Madani.

Hills (middle) with Arash Madani and Windsor Lancers head coach Chantal Vallée on Sportsnet during the 2018 U SPORTS Women's Basketball Final 8 National Championship.

Photo: Hills (middle) with Arash Madani and Windsor Lancers head coach Chantal Vallée on Sportsnet during the 2018 U SPORTS Women's Basketball Final 8 National Championship.

“I didn’t feel like I was being put in a situation where they wanted me to do something I wasn’t ready to do,” she said.

Between the on-air repetitions she acquired in her sports production lab classes and via Rams Live, Hills says her ability to think on her feet has improved significantly.

RTA Production Technician and Rams Live supervisor Brian Withers identifies this skill as one that’s heavily nurtured through Rams Live participation.

“The nature of live sports is that it relies on teamwork and an ability to make split second decisions. These skills are honed and put on display in every Rams Live broadcast,” he said.

And they have been recognized. In two of the last three years, Rams Live has won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Best Webcast Production award.

Withers deems the contributions of students from the inaugural Sport Media class, such as Hills and Temming, “instrumental” in the progression of Rams Live over the past four years.

“I think the biggest contribution that the inaugural Sport Media class has made […] is that they have been at the core of developing, embracing, engaging and committing to the culture and environment of the core values and missions that Rams Live aims to achieve,” he said, referring largely to their championing of peer-to-peer learning.

“They have been a very supportive group in terms of embracing the need to be able to make mistakes and grow […], and I am very appreciative of their contributions.”

Hills credits Rams Live with jumpstarting her career and is overwhelmed at the number of ways her involvement with Ryerson Athletics, which includes emcee stints and a year as a community events department planner, has helped her grow as a Sport Media professional.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot personally and professionally from the experiences that I’ve had and I just feel […] really grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had, but really rewarded for putting in the work that I’ve done,” she said.

Hills (left) and Jamie Campbell, Sportsnet personality and Ryerson alumnus, interviewing Mark Shapiro, President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays at the Excellence in Athletics Breakfast on June 20, 2017.

Photo: Hills (left) and Jamie Campbell, Sportsnet personality and Ryerson alumnus, interviewing Mark Shapiro, President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays at the Excellence in Athletics Breakfast on June 20, 2017.

Hills classifies calling senior night during the 2016-17 season, the last home game of her former graduating women’s basketball teammates, her ultimate highlight involving the Rams from her time with Athletics.

For Temming, a different call stands front and center: announcing the final point which saw Ryerson capture its first ever national sports banner at the U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship in Laval this March.

“I guess I’m just very lucky because of the opportunities I’ve had with Ryerson Athletics to show what I can do. I was lucky to be in that position to call that magical moment,” he said of being hired by U SPORTS for the tournament.

When Temming reflects on his time with Ryerson Athletics, his feelings are nothing but positive.

“It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot and I don’t really think my university experience would have been nearly as enjoyable without all the cool things [I was] doing with Athletics.”

When Temming, Hills, and their classmates walk across the stage next month draped in blue and gold, it’ll signal their graduation from Ryerson University Athletics just as much as it will the university itself.

In the words of American poet and activist Maya Angelou, “You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.”

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